Large Scale Central

When did they start painting Caboose roofs?

I’m in the middle of a project where I’m bashing a custom one off “what if” caboose and I got to thinking about the roofs on cabooses. It seems that modern caboose have roofs that are painted the same colour as the sides but the older ones have black roofs. I’m suspecting that when they stopped using wood and went to steel with the modern styles such as the bay window and extended vision versions they painted the steel roofs. The older wood cabooses needed a covering of tar paper or a rubbery material to keep the rain from getting into the wood and that style of protection was black.

My caboose is a mix of old and new. The roof is black right now but maybe it should be painted the same as the sides will be? A few years back I custom painted a long Aristo steel caboose after adding an extended vision cupola to it and I painted that roof to match the sides.

Perhaps once this projects comes together the black roof will stick out too much and it will have to be painted? We shall see.


Ha! Not much to show yet, just a pile of unassembled parts. I did just cut some plexi for the windows but we know what that looks like. :grin:

Roofs were often covered with canvas, similar to streetcars, just usually painted black. they were not tared either. the tar destroys the canvas. I know from experience on a full size caboose.

Al P.

Being a person that has redone all my G Scale engines and rolling stock and giving them my own railroad name for my railroad, you do what works for you. I would say here, I try to stick to what railroads did with the actual full size rolling stock, but I do, do what I want, it’s my railroad. I think a lot as to do with what railroad era you model, I model late 40’s and early 50’s, or 1949 is my year I model. I myself have found I don’t paint all my roofs black even on some of my older built cars from the 30’s/40’s just because I personally don’t like every roof being black and my car markings will say rebuilt in the 1940’s, so older cars are acceptable for my time period. Remember it your railroad and you can do what works for you, there is no right, or wrong way to do you railroad. I have painted all my caboose roofs the same as the caboose (red), I think it just looks better.

That is the thing John. The older styles had the canvas painted roofs while the new ones are painted steel. My caboose project is a mix of old and new. I guess I will let the cat out of the bag, It is a Bay Window Bobber with a cupola.
I was just putting the final coat on the body before the matte clear coat and I held the black roof section with the painted cupola up to it. I am still not 100% sold on the black roof. I see this as a throw back one off that my shop threw together as a “what if”.
I think I will put it together when the paint dries and run it for a bit with the black roof. I am leaning towards painting it to match the custom more modern extended vision caboose that I painted for this RR.
Hmmmm :thinking: Decisions Decisions.

Copying and pasting your query to Google I came up with the following
and a snip from the above Pennsy page

LATE 1940’s

Roofs of cars (especially N5’s) painted Black. Actually, they were not painted, but tarred because of leaks! Some cars are not modified (no leaks!) and others have just the roofs treated (not the cupolas) and, finally, some car roofs are all Black (including cupolas). Confusion resolved in 1955 (see below).

JANUARY 3, 1949

Handholds on car side and vertical corner grabs on end posts to be painted Chrome Yellow (which of the grabs actually get painted varies from shop to shop).

DECEMBER 8, 1955

Shadow Keystone" tracing issued (see below for lettering). Cars again painted Freight Car Color, which is much “redder” than the 1920’s-1940’s Freight Car Color (see PRRT&HS color drift card for this color, which is accurate for this era). Roof (including cupola) and trucks painted Black (all cars). Safety appliances painted as noted above.

So it looks like roof painting occurred whenever the head honcho of the railroad said “this is how we do it”

Thanks for the interesting information David.

Looks like the roof is painted to me ?

It is not done yet but here it is. I like the contrast with the black roof but I’m still thinking that overall it might look better grey. I will give it some time.


I vote for black. I think it’s Spiffy!

One thing I notice about model railroads and viewing them, most model railroads that we view are viewed from above, just because of where they are built, either on the ground, or a waste high level. Thus each car looks black and the color of the sides requardless of what color they are will take a second look to see what it is, this is not true in every case, but in some cases. Once again since my railroad is my own name on the railroad, I do repaint my rolling stock to my liking, not what the porotype did. Once again there is no right, or wrong way to paint your rolling stock unless you are a Rivet Counter, no problem with being one as I am when it comes to my HOn3 D&RGW Narrow Gauge, but my G Scale is my railroad and gives me the freedom to do what I want. Most of my cars have roofs painted to match the cars body side, exception are reefers as they tend to have a more colorful paint schemes of the 1940’s, and yes all my cabooses have Red Roofs because that’s what I like. Remember most G Scalers are not Rivet Counters and just run trains for the fun of it.

I hear you John.
Sunday is railfan day and the RR hauls around passengers with a steam engine in front. This past Sunday the 3 truck Shay got the call and the boss decided to really treat the tourists to something special so all the cabooses were lined up and pulled round the RR. I now have 12 cabooses with the addition of this Bay Window Bobber and they all have black roofs except for the extended vision bay window pictured above. 10 of the 12 are also painted red but then again the RR’s colours are red with the black stripe.

One thing, you can charge more for a ride in the caboose then in passenger cars, so you must have made pretty good money on your tourist rides last Sunday. See it’s starting to payoff with all those cabooses. I also like the Drovers Cabooses, I have one on my railroad.